Sunday, February 19, 2017

Notre Dame Fighting Irish 81 at NC State Wolfpack 72 (NCAA Basketball, ACC) - February 18, 2017

When I first planned this weekend trip in the Raleigh-Durham area (primarily to see the Leafs visit the Hurricanes), I hoped to get to Cameron Indoor Arena to see Duke hosting Wake Forest. Blue Devil tickets are notoriously difficult to get, especially for intrastate battles, and with prices approaching Super Bowl levels on the secondary market, I decided to wait until next year's non-conference play to try again. Fortunately, the NC State Wolfpack had a game at the same time, so Sharpy and I headed over to PNC Arena in Raleigh to see them taking on #25 Notre Dame.

I had seen the Hurricanes here back in 2014, but was interested in checking out the stadium as a basketball venue. The Wolfpack are the bigger tenants, so I did another tour, but didn't notice much had changed in the time since I was here last. One feature that I do not remember from my previous visit was the center court logo from the Wolfpack's previous arena, Reynolds Coliseum, where the women's team still plays.

The team has 10 ACC championship trophies along with their 2 national titles, which are almost like a second thought in the display case.

There are dozens of banners around the ceiling commemorating each appearance in the NCAA tournament, but the most important will always be the 1983 championship.

As is the case for most basketball venues that are also used for hockey, there are only a few good sections of seats. In this case, all are in the club and quite difficult to sneak into as ushers are on their toes here.

The upper deck end seats were not sold for this game, which was not a very popular event as the Wolfpack are on a 6-game losing skid and not going to make the tournament.

In fact, coach Mark Gottfried got fired (well he resigned under pressure) so his concourse writeup will have to be edited.

The lower section in front of the hockey boards below is for students, which is how it should be. They are the ones who really make college basketball so much fun to watch and they should get the best seats.

Sharpy and I found lower level tickets for $25, a pretty good deal as uppers were $55 at the box office. We also received a parking pass, which saved another $10. Our view is below. That is the band in the far distance; they wear Where's Waldo shirts so they are easy to spot.

The Wolfpack have struggled for a while now, and some local media are suggesting it is time for a rebuild. I don't know how college programs rebuild given that their players are there for four years at the most, but right now, the lack of fans hurts the overall experience. Still, it is a lot cheaper than the other two options in the area.

The Game

The Fighting Irish came into town on a 3-game winning streak and it didn't take them long to get squarely in front with a 9-4 lead at the under 16. The Wolfpack kept it close and when an Abdul-Malik Abu dunk made it 25-21 with 5:47 to go, it seemed like we would have a game on our hands. But a Notre Dame 16-5 run, highlighted by a couple of threes from Matt Ryan (no, not that Matt Ryan), ended those misconceptions as the Irish took a 41-28 lead into the break.

The Wolfpack were welcomed out to start the second half by their cheerleaders (above) but it helped little as Notre Dame stormed out with an 18-8 surge including 3 treys from V.J. Beachem. The Wolfpack battled back and got within 10 with seven minutes on the clock, but another Notre Dame three ended that little run. By the time NC State got it down to 7 points, there was just over a minute left, and they were forced to foul. The Irish missed the first of a 1-and-1 and the fans thought their team had one last chance, but a turnover quickly dashed those dreams and the Irish raced back to Indiana with an 81-72 win.

This was a very fast-paced game as the officials didn't call many fouls (only 26 total). The first half took about 35 minutes and the game was over by 1:50, amazing for a noon start on ESPN. The difference was long-range shooting: Notre Dame was 13/30 while NC State could only muster 3 shots out of 14 attempts (they were 27/44 from inside the arc). Beachem was the star, going 7/12 from downtown and finishing with a game-high 27 points.


Duke beat Wake Forest 99-94 in the other contest. Maybe it would have been worth $500. But probably not.



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